Kenneth Samuel: Perfection in Perspective

Excerpt from Psalm 119

"To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless."

Kenneth L. Samuel

To be quixotic is to be idealistic or romantic without regard to practicality or contemporary reality.  The word is derived from the character of Don Quixote - the hero of Miguel  de Cervantes 17th century novel.  Don Quixote's quest is to make life conform to the chivalrous ideals that live in his fondest recollections.

There is a certain Don Quixote in each of us.  Who among us isn't on a quest to preserve and prolong the best of our experiences?  And are we not engaged in perpetual campaigns to discover, recover or maintain our imaginings of the "perfect" - be it in family, finance or social function?  And do we not attempt in a variety of delightful ways to project our ideals onto the characters of those we love?

The tragedy is not in remembering our experience of the ideal, or even in trying to hold on to it.  The tragedy may be in a refusal to acknowledge that no one expression or experience of perfection is perpetual.  Perhaps perfection itself needs room to grow, to transition and to adapt to changing circumstances and emerging world views.

One person's ideal could be another person's ordeal.  As an African American I'm always disturbed by conservative attempts to return America to the idyllic pre- Colonial context of the Boston Tea Party.  As significant as that event was for the independence of our nation, it doesn't represent the ideal America for racial minorities.  And as comforting as the Norman Rockwell and "Leave It to Beaver" images of America are, I know more than a few women and immigrants who would not be in support of projecting them into the present.

Reflecting on the good ol' days is one thing.  Being oblivious as to how "good" is redefined in a different context is something else.

The Psalmist understood that even our best experiences and imaginings of perfection have limitations and expirations.  But the love that God has commanded toward us is boundless.  Real love and commitment are not bound by any perfect conditions or scenarios.  Even when life is not as perfect as it used to be, love continues to find new expressions, new images and new  relevance.


Dear God please don't allow our images of the perfect to make us slaves to the past.  Set us on quests that would make us better than we've ever been.  Amen.

Taken with permission from UCC's StillSpeaking Devotional.